Classroom doors were opened Monday for nearly a million New York City public school students, the largest experiment in face-to-face learning of the country during the coronavirus pandemic.
The start of the school year coincides with several milestones in the recovery of the pandemic in the city, which depend on the obligation to get vaccinated.
This Monday, almost all the 300,000 employees of the city had to return to their jobs, in person, since in the city remote work is finished. Most will have to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 tests in order to continue working.
Obligation to get vaccinated
The city was also going to start enforcing regulations requiring workers and customers to be vaccinated to enter restaurants, museums, gyms and entertainment venues. The vaccination requirement has been in effect for weeks, but has not been enforced previously.
There will also be a vaccination obligation -no testing option – for teachers, although they have been given until September 27 to get vaccinated for the first time.
Unlike some school districts across the country that continue to offer online instruction to families who prefer it, New York City officials say that there will be no remote option despite the persistence of the highly transmissible delta variant of covid-19.
New York City kept schools open for most of the past school year, with some students doing a hybrid of distance and face-to-face learning, but most families chose totally remote learning. That option It wont be available this year, insisted Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Our children need to be in school and it is amazing that some of them have not seen the inside of a classroom for a year and a half,” the mayor said Thursday. “This has huge consequences, including for healthcare. The place healthier and better for children it is school. “
To the classroom with chinstrap
The chinstrap will be mandatory for all students and staff members, as is the case in schools throughout New York State.
There is no vaccination mandate for students 12 and older who are eligible to be immunized, but immunizations will be required to participate in contact sports like soccer and basketball, as well as some extracurricular activities like band practice and theater. About two-thirds of the city’s 12 to 17-year-olds are already vaccinated.
In United States, Anyone 12 years or older can get the vaccine against COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) chief of vaccines said last week that he expects children as young as 5 to be eligible to be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
De Blasio, a Democrat in his final months in office, insists that chinstraps, hygiene protocols and random COVID-19 tests make school buildings safe. But he has received the rejection of parents who they want their children to be home and from unions representing teachers and other members of the school staff.
One person who called WNYC during the mayor’s weekly radio appearance on Friday said he was “absolutely beside himself with fear of sending my 6 year old son to school”.
“We believe this is an extremely safe environment,” de Blasio responded. “We have shown it and the most important thing is that our children have to come back.”
When asked if some students could disappear from the system because their parents, concerned about the virus, would not send them to school, de Blasio said that “the great, great majority” of parents they will take their children to school.
The city was in arbitration with the United Federation of Teachers, which represents nearly 80,000 teachers in the city’s public schools, on issues including accommodations for teachers who claim to have health problems that prevent them from being vaccinated.
The referee ruled late on Friday that the city must offer tasks outside the classroom to teachers who are not vaccinated due to medical and religious exemptions.
“As a group, the teachers have been overwhelmingly supportive of the vaccine, but we have members with medical conditions or other reasons to refuse vaccination, “UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a press release.
Meanwhile, other city worker unions have opposed the mayor’s decision to order employees to return to their jobs, saying that if they were doing their remote work well, they should be allowed to continue.
The Municipal Labor Committee, a group that groups together unions representing municipal workers, has also threatened legal action if the mayor remove the option from tests virus weekly for workers who choose not to get vaccinated.
And a group of restaurant and bar owners has filed a lawsuit against the vaccination requirement for in-house restaurants and employees, saying that the city has overreached on its legal authority.
Karen Matthews, Associated Press